When we eat, it isn’t always because we’re hungry. When we feel emotions like stress, anger, fatigue, or boredom, we sometimes turn to food for comfort. It usually will soothe a complex emotion temporarily. Unfortunately, this often leaves us feeling worse.
We call this emotional eating. It happens when we eat because of emotions instead of hunger, and it can be caused by overeating. Everyone experiences emotional eating to some degree. But you can learn how to anticipate it, overcome it, and achieve better health and weight loss.
What Causes Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is caused by any emotion and triggered by everyday issues, like work or major events. Even positive emotions like joy or excitement can lead us to overeat in a misguided attempt to maintain a good mood.
Here are examples of situations in where you might eat emotionally:
- Feeling stressed at work, we may cope by grazing throughout the day.
- Feeling fatigued after a long day, we may head to the refrigerator to unwind.
- Feeling angry or frustrated after an argument, we may eat until the tension goes away.
- Feeling anxious about an upcoming project, we may procrastinate by eating instead of working.
- Feeling bored or lonely during a night alone at home, we may seek comfort and enjoyment in eating.
- Feeling excited, we may dine out or use food as a reward to give ourselves something to look forward to.
Among these emotions, stress is one of the most significant contributors to overeating. When we’re unsure of how to deal with the stress in our lives, we may turn to food for lack of other options.
How Does Emotional Eating Affect Us?
Emotional eating can leave us feeling disappointed and frustrated with our actions. Thus leading to more emotional eating. And it doesn’t stop when we’re full. While overeating may briefly make us feel better, the emotional issue that led us to eat remains unresolved. As we continue to eat emotionally, we may not understand why we’re eating. But the continued distress affects our eating habits.
Emotional eating can contribute to weight gain, especially as the problem continues over time.
How Do You Prevent Emotional Eating?
Avoid emotional eating by developing a lifestyle that supports weight loss. This can be accomplished by:
- Managing stress
- Identifying emotional triggers
- Changing your environment and the way you relate to others
Learn to differentiate emotional hunger from physical hunger. Use strategies to cope with your emotions in a constructive way. You can overcome emotional eating and prevent this common problem from affecting your progress.
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